A City Laid Waste

A City Laid Waste

The Capture, Sack, and Destruction of the City of Columbia

William Gilmore Simms, David Aiken


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In the first reissue of these documents since 1865, A City Laid Waste captures in riveting detail the destruction of South Carolina's capital city. William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870), a native South Carolinian and one of the nation's foremost men of letters, was in Columbia and witnessed firsthand the city's capture and destruction. A renowned novelist and poet, who was also an experienced journalist and historian, Simms deftly recorded the events of February 1865 in a series of eyewitness accounts published in the first ten issues of the Columbia Phoenix and reprinted here. His record of burned buildings constitutes the most authoritative information available on the extent of the damage. Simms historian David Aiken provides a historical and literary context for Simms's reportage. In his introduction Aiken clarifies the significance of Simms's articles and draws attention to factors most important for understanding the occupation's impact on the city of Columbia.